The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement
A Short Study of the Life of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Appendix 3: Maulana Muhammad Ali and Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (Compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz)
Shortly after the young Muhammad Ali joined the Ahmadiyya Movement in 1897, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote and published the following opinion about him in an announcement:
“Among the most sincere friends in our community is Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A., who, besides his other qualifications, has also just now passed his law examination. For the past few months, at much loss to his own work, he has been staying with me in Qadian to perform a service to religion by translating some of my writings into English. …
During this period in which he has been with me, I have been observing him, both openly and discreetly, to assess his moral character, observance of religion and goodness of behaviour. So, thanks be to God, that I have found him to be a most excellent man as regards religion and good behaviour in all ways. He is unassuming, modest, of a righteous nature, and pious. He is to be envied for many of his qualities. … It is obvious that such promising young men possessing these qualities, who are able and honourable, cannot be found by searching.”1
Two months later, in another announcement in which Hazrat Mirza mentioned several of the prominent men who had joined the Movement, he writes:
“I am very happy that another good young man, having found the grace of God, has joined our community, that is Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A., Pleader. I have very good expectations of him. For a long time he has borne a worldly loss in order to stay in Qadian to serve the religion, and is learning the deep knowledge of the Holy Quran from Hazrat Maulvi Nur-ud-Din.
I am sure that my foresight will not go wrong in this, that this young man will make progress in the path of God, and I am sure that by the grace of God he will prove to be so firm in righteousness and love of religion that he will set an example worthy to be followed by his peers. O God, let it be so! Amen, again Amen.”2
In this second announcement, Hazrat Mirza has added here a footnote as follows:
“All those books of mine which are published after translation into English are translated by Maulvi Muhammad Ali, M.A.”
In a letter to the Maulana in this early period, Hazrat Mirza wrote:
“I hold an extremely favourable opinion about you. This is why I have a special love for you. If your nature had not been pure in the sight of God, I could not possibly have thought so well of you, never. I love you fervently from the bottom of my heart, and often pray for you in the five daily prayers. I hope that at some future time these prayers will show their effect. … I am busy praying, with heart-felt passion, for your welfare in this world and the hereafter, and your body and soul, and I am awaiting the effects and results of the prayer.”3
In another early letter to the Maulana, Hazrat Mirza writes:
“It has long been my intention to divide my community into two groups. One group consists of those who are partly for this world and partly for religion, and are not able to withstand great trials, nor can they render important services to religion. The other group consists of those who enter through this door with full sincerity and faithfulness and in reality sell themselves in this path. I wish that God would include you in the latter group.”4
In these words Hazrat Mirza has presaged the division of his following into two groups — indeed he has called it his “intention” — one tainted by worldly motives and the other purely devoted to religion, and indicated that Maulana Muhammad Ali will be in the latter group.
Appoints Maulana as Editor of the Review of Religions:
Shortly after Maulana Muhammad Ali decided to devote his life to the cause of the religion, Islam and the Ahmadiyya Movement, and for that purpose came to settle in Qadian in 1899, Hazrat Mirza announced his proposal to start a magazine in English. He wrote:
“It was always a matter of sadness and anxiety for me that all those truths, the spiritual knowledge, the sound arguments in support of the religion of Islam, and the teachings giving satisfaction to the human soul, which have been disclosed to me and are still being made known to me, have not yet benefited the English-educated people of this country or the seekers-after-truth of Europe. This pain was so intense that it was no longer bearable. But God Almighty intends that, before I pass away from this temporary abode, all my aims should be fulfilled so that my last journey is not one of disappointment.
So to fulfil this object, which is the real purpose of my life, there is a suggestion that … a magazine in English be published for the fulfillment of the objectives mentioned above.”5
This magazine was started under the title the Review of Religions and Hazrat Mirza appointed Maulana Muhammad Ali as its editor. Most of the articles in the magazine were from the pen of the Maulana, many of them being translations of writings of the Promised Messiah. In a very short time this magazine acquired renown, not only in India but abroad as well.
It should be noted that what Hazrat Mirza has called above as “the real purpose of my life”, he appointed the Maulana for its fulfillment.
The following incident was also recorded and published in Hazrat Mirza’s lifetime:
“The Review of Religions was being mentioned. A man praised it and said that its articles were of high quality. Hazrat Mirza said:
‘Its editor Maulvi Muhammad Ali is an able and learned man. He has the M.A. degree, and along with it a religious bent of mind. He always passed with top marks and his name had gone forward for E.A.C. But leaving all this he has settled here. This is why God Almighty has blessed his writing.’ ”6
Maulana to Correct Errors in Ahmadiyya Publications:
There were two Ahmadiyya community newspapers published in Urdu, Al-Hakam and Al-Badr (later called just Badr), which reported what Hazrat Mirza said during his daily conversations in gatherings of his followers, friends and visitors. An incident is recorded as follows concerning the publication of his speeches and spoken statements in these newspapers:
“The holy Hazrat called in the editors of Al-Hakam and Al-Badr and emphasized to them that they must be very careful in writing down his speeches, in case something got misreported by mistake, which would then be used by the critics in their support. … So (added Hazrat Mirza) ‘it is proper that before publishing such articles in your newspapers you should show them to Maulvi Muhammad Ali. You will benefit by this, and also people will be saved from error.’ ”7
This shows that the Promised Messiah had the fullest confidence in Maulana Muhammad Ali as correctly understanding his views and teachings, so much so that he should be asked to check if some statement or belief was being wrongly ascribed to the Promised Messiah.
Wants People like Muhammad Ali to be Produced:
The Promised Messiah highly valued the services of Maulana Muhammad Ali and regarded them as unique, so much so that once he said:
“I wish that such people could be produced who would do the kind of work that Maulvi Muhammad Ali is doing. There is no certainty of life, and he is all alone. One cannot see anyone who can assist him or take his place.”8
Appoints him Secretary of the Anjuman’s Executive:
In early 1906, by means of his published will and testament entitled Al-Wasiyya, Hazrat Mirza created an executive body, called the Sadr Anjuman Ahmadiyya, to be the supreme ruling body in the Ahmadiyya Movement after him, which he described as his “successor”. Later he wrote:
“…after my lifetime, the decision of this Anjuman in all matters shall be final.”9
He appointed the Maulana as the Secretary of the Anjuman, its chief administrative officer.
According to the rules of the Anjuman, as prescribed by Hazrat Mirza, it would have full control over all the finances of the Movement. He wrote in his booklet Al-Wasiyya:
“The Anjuman, which is to hold these funds, shall not be entitled to spend the monies for any purpose except the objects of the Ahmadiyya Movement, and among these objects the propagation of Islam shall have the highest priority.”
This shows the sovereign power that Hazrat Mirza gave to the body whose secretary he appointed Maulana Muhammad Ali.
Gives Pen to the Maulana:
The Promised Messiah also regarded the Maulana as the inheritor of his knowledge, who would spread in the world the spiritual truths taught by him. In November 1906, a dream was related by Hazrat Mirza in which he saw Maulvi Abdul Karim, one of his leading followers who had died earlier, bring him a gift of a device consisting of a tube with a pen attached at the end, enabling the pen to be used easily without effort. Hazrat Mirza then relates that the following took place in the dream:
“I said: ‘I did not send for this pen’. Maulvi [Abdul Karim] sahib replied: ‘Maulvi Muhammad Ali must have sent for it’. I said I would give it to him.”10
This pen came from heaven, as it was brought by a great disciple of Hazrat Mirza who had died, and Hazrat Mirza passed it on to Maulana Muhammad Ali. This signifies that Hazrat Mirza passed on to the Maulana the religious knowledge that he received from God and handed to him the task of broadcasting it to the world. Hazrat Mirza’s saying “I did not send for this pen” signifies that he himself would not be using it. And so it was that Maulana Muhammad Ali wielded this pen to produce legendary writings such as his English and Urdu commentaries of the Quran. The feature of the pen mentioned in the dream, that it could be used to write profusely without effort, was also clearly fulfilled in the prolific nature of the writings authored by the Maulana.
Directs the Maulana to write a Book about Islam:
It was reported in the Ahmadiyya newspaper Badr during the life of the Founder that on 13 February 1907 he called in Maulana Muhammad Ali and said to him:
“I want to fulfil the duty of the propagation of Islam to the Western people by having an English book written, and this is your work. The reason why Islam today is not spreading in those countries, and if someone does become a Muslim he is very weak, is that those people do not know the truth about Islam, nor has it been presented to them. It is their right that they should be shown the true Islam which God has made manifest to me.… All those arguments that God has taught me to prove Islam to be true should be collected together in one place. If a comprehensive book of this kind is compiled, it is hoped that people would benefit from it greatly.”11
The Maulana eventually performed the great service of writing such a book in the form of The Religion of Islam, first published in 1936. In the preface of this book he mentions that Hazrat Mirza had asked him to write such a book:
“…the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, had charged me with the writing of an English book which should contain all that was necessary for a Muslim, or a non-Muslim, to know about the religion of Islam, and to give a true picture of the religion which was largely misrepresented.”
This book was received with acclaim by many famous Islamic writers and reviewers. It prompted the following opening words in his review by Marmaduke Pickthall:
“Probably no man living has done longer or more valuable service for the cause of Islamic revival than Maulana Muhammad Ali of Lahore.”12
Further on in this review, Pickthall wrote:
“Such a book is greatly needed at the present day when in many Muslim countries we see persons eager for the reformation and revival of Islam, making mistakes through lack of just this knowledge.”
This is independent confirmation that the Maulana’s book corrected the generally prevailing misconceptions about Islam, which was a chief objective laid down by Hazrat Mirza when he directed the Maulana to write such a book.
It can be seen that Hazrat Mirza handed to the Maulana one of the most important duties of his mission — the presentation of Islam to the West in English in one comprehensive book — telling him “this is your work”, and the Maulana was able to fulfil this duty to the highest standard.
English Translation of the Holy Quran:
In 1891, some five or six years before Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and Maulana Muhammad Ali had first met, Hazrat Mirza had published his book Izala Auham, in which he had expressed his heart-felt desire to prepare and send an English translation of the Quran to Western countries. He wrote:
“…I wish to prepare a commentary of the Holy Quran which should be sent to them [the Western nations] after it has been rendered into the English language. I cannot refrain from stating clearly that this is my work, and that no one else can do it as well as I or he who is an offshoot of mine and thus is included in me.”13
Here he declares that the person who does this work would be “an offshoot of mine and thus included in me”. It was Maulana Muhammad Ali who did this work, starting it in 1909, one year after the death of Hazrat Mirza, and publishing it eight years later. Not only was it hailed by many independent reviewers at that time as a marvellous, unequalled work, but even up to today, after the appearance of other translations by Muslims, this translation and commentary is still considered as surpassing all others in scholarship and quality. Another respect in which the Maulana’s English work excels all others is that it has spawned translations in several other languages such as Dutch, German, French, Spanish and Russian.
Therefore the Maulana’s translation and commentary has quite clearly fulfilled Hazrat Mirza’s bold prediction in the above quotation that it would be entirely impossible for anyone else to do this work as he could or one who was his branch. It follows that Maulana Muhammad Ali clearly meets the above description, “an offshoot of mine and thus is included in me”, and his life and work were thus a continuation of the life and work of the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement.
- Dated 9 August 1899, Majmua Ishtiharat, vol. 3, p. 137, number 206. ↩
- Dated 4 October 1899, op. cit., vol. 3, p. 157–158, number 208. ↩
- Facsimile of letter published in the Urdu biography of Maulana Muhammad Ali, Mujahid-i Kabir, page 50. ↩
- Letter dated 8 May 1899; facsimile in Mujahid-i Kabir, page 32. ↩
- Announcement dated 15 January 1901, Majmua Ishtiharat, vol. 3, pages 393–394, number 234. ↩
- On 7th November 1906. Ruhani Khazain No. 2, vol. 9, page 90. ↩
- On 2nd November 1902. Ruhani Khazain No. 2, vol. 4, page 159. ↩
- Ruhani Khazain No. 2, vol. 8, page 270. ↩
- Handwritten note dated 27 October 1907. ↩
- Al-Hakam, 17 November 1906, front page. ↩
- Ruhani Khazain No. 2, vol. 9, pages 191–192. ↩
- Islamic Culture, Hyderabad, India, October 1936, page 659. ↩
- Izala Auham, page 773. ↩